Bewildered by the change you have to make – here is help!


Do you need to make a change in your organisation?  Does the prospect feel overwhelming?  Well why not use the simplest model of change – the Freeze Phase Model, also known as Square-Blob-Star!  This post tells you how to use it!  If you care about leading you organisation well and if you are committed to being a good manager, you have all you need need to implement this approach well!

This post appeared on my blog in July 2009.  It is one of the most popular pieces here and I believe that many readers have found it useful!  So I am have revamped it slightly with some links to techniques to use when you implement the model.  I’ve seen this approach work many times.  I wish you luck with your change and if you would like further advice, please get in touch!

In the early 20th century, psychologist Kurt Lewin identified three stages of change that are still the basis of many approaches today.

UNFREEZE

People like to feel safe and in control and their sense of identity is tied into their present environment particularly if it has been relatively stable for a while!  This creates a feeling of comfort and any challenges to it even those which may offer significant benefit, can cause discomfort. See why change hurts! Talking about the future is rarely enough to move them from this ‘frozen’ state and significant work is usually required to ‘unfreeze’ them and get them moving.  In frustration some managers may revert to using a Push method to get them moving – coercing them into a change.  The Pull method of leadership, persuasion and modeling behavior takes longer but has a much better long term effect . The term ‘change ready’ is often used to describe people who are unfrozen and ready to take the next step. Some people come ready for change whilst others take a long time to let go of their comfortable current realities.

TRANSITION

For Lewin change is a journey.  This journey may not be that simple and the person may need to go through several stages of misunderstanding before they get to the other side.  A classic trap in change is for the leaders to spend months on their own personal journeys and then expect everyone else to cross the chasm in a single bound. Transition takes time and needs leadership and support!   But sometimes  transition can also be a pleasant trap – it may feel better to travel hopefully than arrive – particularly for the team leading the change.

REFREEZE

At the other end of the journey, the final goal is to ‘refreeze’, putting down roots again and establishing the new place of stability – embedding new processes and developing a new culture.  In practice, refreezing may be a slow process as transitions seldom stop cleanly, but go more in fits and starts with a long tail of bits and pieces. There are good and bad things about this.   In modern organizations, this stage is often rather tentative as the next change may well be around the next corner. What is often encouraged, then, is more of a state of ‘slushiness’ where freezing is never really achieved (theoretically making the next unfreezing easier). The danger with this that many organizations have found is that people fall into a state of change shock, where they work at a low level of efficiency and effectiveness as they await the next change.

You can find out more at the following links

More of the Freeze Phase/Square-Blob-Star Model – general introduction continued

Getting ready for the Change (Unfreeze) – some unfreezing techniques

Helping people to change (Transition) – constructive ways to manage transition

Completing the Change (Refreeze) – constructive ways to embed the change and make sure it sticks


Unfreezing techniques – getting ready for change

Unfreezing techniques! Unfreezing is the first of Lewin’s change stages

Unfreezing techniques are not generally well understood! Unfreezing is the first of unfreezing techniquesLewin’s change stages (the Square). This is about getting people ready to accept change. You need some way of readying people for change in whatever Change Model you apply. The techniques below need to be applied with care and they are best used in combination. I have included what I regard as recommended approaches. Not included is “Command – just telling them they are going to change and expecting obedience. Nor is  the “Burning Platform” – ‘the platform is burning so we must jump’ approach. Those two techniques, I regard as cop-outs in most circumstances. Although they may have their place in a crisis – see the Evidence point below!

Visioning

Done well, visions work to create change. Visions work when they act to motivate and inspire the large numbers of people who are needed to make the change happen. To be motivating,  the vision must be memorable. For it to be memorable, it is usually surprising and short. To be surprising, it should be different from everyone else’s vision. If it is to be believed, it must be a regular part of the conversation of senior people.

Challenge

Inspire people to achieve remarkable things. Stimulate people into change by challenging them to achieve something remarkable. Show confidence in their ability to get out of their comfort zone and do what has not been done before. This works particularly well with small groups, as well as individuals. Once the group has bought the challenge they will bounce off each other to make it happen.  The approach is most effective when the people create their own stretch goals.  So, rather than telling them to do something, challenge them to achieve. Then, when they are fired up, ask them how far they can go.

Evidence

Cold, hard, data is difficult to ignore.  Say you have incontrovertible evidence staring you in the face. For example, the numbers are showing the company in the red or sales sinking into the sunset. Then, it is difficult to put your head in the sand and wish it away.  Cold, hard, evidence is a good way of changing minds. Counter-arguments require better data of sufficient strength to show your data as invalid.

Education and training

There is a gentler way of helping people see the need for change. This is by educating them about why change is necessary and how change can be managed. You could include presentations, communications and full-on training sessions.

Use of  Objectives

This means you agree with people what to do, but not how.  You set formal objectives that they are committed to achieve. But you do not tell them how they have to achieve them. In particular, if you can, give people objectives that they can only achieve by working in the intended change. Set a goal or formal objective that requires them to change.

Restructuring

You can redesign the organisation to force behaviour change. Just as function follows form, so will change follow the re-shape.  It will change how people behave. Newly formed groups that can cohere into separate units are more likely to become very internally motivated. Motivation is good, but the internal facing can be away from the organisation. So you must ensure that group goals are aligned. This is, for example, by regular external communications.

Rites of passage

Hold a wake to help let go of the past.  A wake is a party that is held to celebrate the life of someone who has died. It can also mean something to symbolise letting go of the past. Among unfreezing techniques this is often missed. When a change is completed, celebrate with a party or some other ritualised recognition. Mark the passing of a key milestone. You can also start a change with a wake – some kind of key event. Create new rituals to help shift the culture to a new form. Use these, if possible, to replace the rituals that already exist.

You need some way of readying people for change in whatever change model you apply. The unfreezing techniques described here work and they are best used in combination.

You will find a post on managing the next stage of change; Managing Transition here

Wendy Smith is a career consultant, life coach and business coach with depth of experience in management, coaching and personal development. That experience means she is equally at home helping clients find a new career direction, starting-up new businesses or dealing with life’s more challenging personal issues. You can contact her at wendy@wisewolfcoaching.com

Wendy has written a little eBook on how to get on with your boss and a book on job search – you can find her books on Amazon at this link

         

 

GETTING READY FOR CHANGE – SOME UNFREEZING TECHNIQUES

Unfreezing is the first of Lewin’s change stages (the Square) – this is about getting people ready to accept change.  You need some way of readying people for change in whatever Change Model you apply.  The techniques below need to be applied with care and they are probably best used in combination.   I have included what I regard as recommended approaches.  I have not included “Command “ (just telling them they are going to change and expecting obedience) or  the “Burning Platform” ( the platform is burning so we must jump) approach which I regard as cop-outs in most circumstances – although they may have their place in a crisis – see the Evidence point below!  .

  • Visioning: Done well, visions work to create change. Visions work when they act to motivate and inspire the large numbers of people that are needed to make the change happen. For the vision to be motivating,  it must be memorable. For it to be memorable, it is usually surprising and short. To be surprising, it should be different from everyone else’s vision. To be believed, it must be a regular part of the conversation of senior people.
  • Challenge: Inspire people to achieve remarkable things. Stimulate people into change by challenging them to achieve something remarkable. Show confidence in their ability to get out of their comfort zone and do what has not been done before.This works particularly well with small groups, as well as individuals. Once the group has bought the challenge, then they will bounce off each other to make it happen. This is most effective when the people create their own stretch goals, so rather than telling them to do something, challenge them to achieve greatly, then, when they are fired up, ask them how far they can go.
  • Evidence: Cold, hard data is difficult to ignore.  When you have incontrovertible evidence staring you in the face, for example, where the numbers are showing the company in the red or sales sinking into the sunset, it is difficult to put your head in the sand and wish it away.  Cold, hard evidence is a good way of changing minds as counter-arguments require better data or sufficient strength to show the data as invalid.
  • Education and training: A gentler way of helping people see the need for change is by educating about why change is necessary and how change can be managed. This includes presentations, communications and full-on training sessions.
  • Use of  Objectives: Tell people what to do, but not how. Set formal objectives for people that they will have to achieve, but do not tell them how they have to achieve this. In particular, if you can, give people objectives that they can only achieve by working in the intended change. Set the person a goal or formal objective that requires them to change.
  • Restructuring: Redesign the organization to force behavior change. Just as function follows form, so also will changing the shape of the organization.  It will change how people behave.Groups that can cohere into separate units are likely to become very internally motivated. Motivation is good, but the internal facing can be away from the organization, so you must ensure that group goals are aligned, for example by regular external communications.
  • Rites of passage: Hold a wake to help let go of the past. When a change is completed, celebrate with a party or some other ritualized recognition of the passing of a key milestone. You can also start a change with a wake (which is a party that is held to celebrate the life of someone who has died) to symbolize letting go of the past. Create new rituals to help shift the culture to a new form. Use these, if possible, to replace the rituals that already exist.